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The Progressive Policy Think Tank

Tomorrow's Prisons: Designing the future prison estate

With much of the prison estate far too old to meet modern needs, there is an urgent need for fresh thinking about what we do in our prisons - and how they should be designed to facilitate those objectives.

This project, of which this paper is the first output, aims to provide such new thinking by setting out a challenging but achievable agenda for change.

We see two alternative futures for the prison estate:

  • We can continue on our present course, expanding the estate by building ever larger prisons based on standard designs. This might seem like the politically safer course, but it is a highly costly one and will do little to address the challenges identified.
  • We can embrace an ambitious but practical agenda of prison modernisation, which would create a more diverse range of penal institutions that are smaller, locally rooted, specialised and focused on rehabilitating prisoners.

The report sets the scene for the second phase of the project, which will set out in detail what that alternative scenario could look like and how the political, financial and practical challenges to it can be overcome.